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bohemianonrye's picture

State of the Art

By bohemianonrye in Teleport Us

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What is a world without death if there is no one to write about it?

A story about a last man's last moments, witnessed in the eyes of a machine.


Tom Elias's picture
Tom Elias from Maine is reading Everything I can afford or that is within arms' reach. February 4, 2013 - 10:02pm

I liked this story.  The old man's pain is evident, and he masks his fear of death even to himself.  The Hemingway unit provides an interesting counterpoint to Hank.  I would like to see the robot explained more, but this could be just personal preference.  The notion is interesting - a machine to document our last moments.

Paper_Junkie's picture
Paper_Junkie from MN is reading A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again February 5, 2013 - 9:31am

I think the best moments were the ineractions between man and machine.  Your dialogue is good too, but I would also like a bit more exploration of why robots are writers in the future.

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 5, 2013 - 11:34am

Love the style. The robots seemed a bit asimovesque, which worked finr for me. Could have been more hopelessness, more dystopia. 

timbarzyk's picture
timbarzyk from Earth February 5, 2013 - 9:38pm

This was quite captivating the second time I read it. I like Hank -- what a bitter old man -- not that I'd like him in real life, but you really crafted a great character. His responses were very authentic, and your dialogue conveyed them well.

I had a few instances of abstract confusion, and I was trying to figure out why. Here's the two critiques I came up with -- please take these with a grain of salt, because I did like the story -- 

One was the middle part of the story -- it seemed to progress in the present, then there were flashbacks to various instances of his final days, then more of the present -- actually, there were times when I couldn't tell if something was a flashback or happening in the present -- the organ salesman for example, or when Hemingway told the story. There were also instances referring to his wife and daughter where I got confused in terms of timing. So anyway, some kind of progression issue struck me. I don't mind flashbacks, but I got a little discombobulated here.

Secondly was the Hemingway robot. I would have loved to have seen it be a little more interactive, and grow as a character (even if if is a robot). I kind of got the sense that it was just this kind of clumsily mechanical man that was supposed to record Hank's last days, but couldn't even write down what he said? I suppose he was making regular voice/video recordings too? I got this general sense of incompetence from the robot -- though I get in the end that it didn't really record Hank's last words at all (right? it just wrote his name over and over) -- that was a cool twist, and I liked that quite a bit, so I'm not sure how one would strike a balance between an endearing robot and the failings of mechanization.

So did the robot record anything Hank said? I kind of missed that too. My understanding is that was its job, right?

Hank is haunting me right now, he was so real. That was a really great character.

Thanks bohemianonrye -- 




ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. February 6, 2013 - 5:29pm

You did a very good job conveying Hank's last days and his view of a changing world.  It's difficult to imagine what it would be like to face that kind of obsolescence, especially with what replaced you sitting right there next to you.  Great concept!

WonBlackGuy's picture
WonBlackGuy from Tulsa, Oklahoma is reading Between the World and Me February 6, 2013 - 9:54pm

Really liked your story. The ending was great. Also, Hank is a wonderful character. You fleshed him out very well. There did seem to be a few tense problems here and there. And I, too, would have liked to get a little more Hemingway Robot characterization, but, all-in-all, I enjoyed this a great deal. Good job!

Ethan Cooper's picture
Ethan Cooper from Longview, TX is reading The Kill Room, Heart-Shaped Box, Dr. Sleep February 11, 2013 - 12:01pm

I enjoyed this story; it's well-written.

I was curious why the world didn't have any more writers. I'm assuming it's because they were replaced by robots? If this is the case, you might consider making this a little more clear to the reader. Maybe they would've downloaded his knowledge/brain into the robot?

Personally, I wanted more of the robot. I think the robot's interaction with your MC is really where this story shines.

Well done. Keep up the good work!


Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) February 28, 2013 - 7:28am

The idea of a last poet being obsolete is a depressing one.  I did wonder why nobody would want to create in that way, even if they had been replaced by robots.  If a human writer is revered, you’d hope that may inspire people to try for themselves.  The story is well crafted and I agree with previous comments that it’s at its most alive when Hank and Hemingway are conversing.  I got the impression that Hemingway was trying to convey emotion with the notebook entries, perhaps wrongly.  I like the melancholy tone, and the nostalgic beats you hit – the refilling of the pen was especially masterful.  I would have liked Hemingway to convey more emotion, but it’s a small point.  You’d hope that a robot able to convey emotion in the written word would be able to do so verbally in these situations.  Hank is well written, and feels like a very familiar archetypal character.

ender.che.13's picture
ender.che.13 from Northwestern U.S. living in the southeast peach. is reading Ken Follett March 4, 2013 - 5:34pm

A goddamn singing prostate. That was beautiful.

Some of the language is a little measured, reading almost like a manual, but it's very clear spoken throughout. The smaller details are added with deft subtlety, not coming across as interesting ideas you had and tried to force into the story for their own sake.

Very touching moments between man and machine as Hank degenerates toward the end.

My only real critique would be to punch the language up a little, but otherwise the story was executed with eclat.